This old Chinese proverb continues to have currency as the years pass. We think that today is one of those very interesting times, with implications for our life plans and hopes.
As we review the past quarter, there are major global cross currents that are social, economic, financial, and political that are likely to bring significant changes here and abroad. While we tend to steer clear of political discussions, it’s hard to avoid discussing policy decisions when a world leader’s message can change markets in a matter of hours.
From an overall investment perspective, the United States’ stock market remains “the cleanest dirty shirt in the world equity universe,” according to Gemmer Asset Management’s recent quarterly review. Our US economy remains strong due to a low unemployment rate that fell to 3.5% in September, a decade of continued low inflation, as well as a stable consumer picture.
These “Interesting Times” may lead you to think about your savings, your retirement planning, and other key areas of your Financial House. This is a great time to look at the state of your 2019 Financial House to see what areas to review, reassess, and perhaps adjust as we enter 2020.
For friends and colleagues, Ora and I are here to support you with a Complimentary Second Opinion. We believe our review will help you take stock (no pun intended) of your Financial House, with the potential to provide valuable insights. Please call to schedule time for a conversation about meeting your long-term financial goals.
Best wishes and Enjoy! Marilyn and Ora
The data that identity thieves are after – social security, credit card, and bank account numbers – is important, as well as more basic data which is being collected by companies whose devices you use every day.
Geoffrey Fowler of The Washington Post recently reported what happens on smartphones doesn’t stay on smartphones, despite advertisements suggesting otherwise. He wrote:1
“Even though the screen is off and I’m snoring, apps are beaming out lots of information about me to companies I’ve never heard of…On a recent Monday night, a dozen marketing companies, research firms, and other personal data guzzlers got reports from my [smartphone].”
And, they used his wireless service to do it!
Over the course of a month, one expert estimated trackers would have sent 1.5 gigabytes of data – including Fowler’s email address, phone number, IP address, and location, among other things – from his phone to various companies.2
Here’s some more bad news: Your credit cards may be bigger gossips than you imagined.
When Fowler attempted to track data collected by credit card companies, it was akin to talking with teenagers about their plans for the evening. His personal credit card data was going out, but no one could say where it was going, why it was going there, or what would happen to it.2
The data collected from devices and credit card purchases is aggregated and commonly known as ‘Big Data.’ In some cases, data is anonymous. In others, it is used to learn more about a specific individual. Data also is collected through social media.3
Big Data is stored in computer databases and analyzed to “…increase the speed at which products get to market, to reduce the amount of time and resources required to gain market adoption, target audiences, and to ensure that customers remain satisfied.”3
In other words, Big Data is really valuable. Some researchers have explored whether individuals should own and control personal data. That way, you would have the right to decide whether to sell it or keep it private.4
The Council on Foreign Relations reported most western nations have laws in place to protect citizens from having data collected and used without their knowledge. The United States is an exception. It “lacks a single, comprehensive federal law that regulates the collection and use of personal information.”5
Until laws change, there are apps available that can help you block data collection – and they promise not to collect your data.6
For many people, drinking a cup of hot, sweet cocoa is the perfect way to warm up after a day of sledding or a snowball fight. So, it may surprise you to know cocoa was originally served cold and spicy. In 500 BC, Mayans ground up cocoa seeds and mixed them with cornmeal, chili peppers, and water. It wasn’t until the 1500s, when the drink was exported to Spain that it was served warm and sweet. Here’s an après ski recipe you may enjoy courtesy of the Dairy Council of California.7, 8
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup hot water
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 cups milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Mix cocoa, sugar, water, and salt in a saucepan. Over medium heat, stir constantly until mixture boils. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Stir in the milk and heat, but do not boil. Remove from heat and add vanilla; blend well. Serve immediately.
See what you know about some of these amazing women.
The National Poll on Healthy Aging reported, “Many in their 50s and early 60s buy supplements or do puzzles in hopes of protecting brain health, but may miss out on effective strategies.”9
What should we be doing?
Among other things, we should be getting up and moving. Exercise can help keep your brain healthy and may be able to reverse mild cognitive impairment. The AARP blog reported:10
“…exercise not only improved thinking skills in those with memory problems but also reduced levels of toxic tau protein in the brain. In addition, the vigorous-exercise group experienced improved blood flow to areas of the brain that are usually restricted in those with memory loss.”
Exercise also has been shown to help people who already have Alzheimer’s disease. Vigorous exercise (at 70 percent of maximum heart rate) can help improve brain speed and sharpen attention.10
If you’re concerned about keeping your brain healthy, participating in light strength training, a.k.a. resistance training, a couple of times a week can help protect against white matter lesions, which are linked to dementia, memory loss, balance, and impaired mobility.11
It may not work for everyone, but combining aerobic exercise and strength training could help your brain stay younger longer.
Ben Franklin’s saying, “Early to Bed, Early to Rise, makes a man, Healthy, Wealthy and Wise”, is as true today as it was in his era. We sometimes undervalue our health and how it impacts our overall wealth.
Without our health, we cannot work to earn, we cannot take care of our loved ones, and we cannot enjoy the fruits of our labors.
How many times have we been on vacation in a lovely location and we see people, who are well-off financially, but who cannot physically enjoy the beauty of their surroundings, due to poor health.
It is health that is the real wealth and not the pieces of gold and silver.
Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.
Gratitude, gratefulness, appreciation—these are words that are “easy” to say and perhaps hard to put into practice. Particularly, when we have deadlines to meet, bills to pay, and your head/ego is shouting out to fix a money problem or find another alternative! We as humans are not hardwired to step into “gratefulness” on command, particularly when our brain is in fear, anger and/or anxiety mode!
How do we step into this mindset of gratitude, particularly when we talk about Money Matters? Well, as we do with our education and vocational skills, it does take practice and awareness of our self and our mindset in in the moment to take a deep breath and step into, by choice, the mindset of “gratitude”. This may or will seem odd when you do this intentionally for the first time. However, I can testify that the shift in my mindset, particularly, when my own Money Matters come into play, if I just take a step back, look at the “big picture,” and breathe, the answers… the alternatives… come to me as if on command. If I stay in the mode of frustration, anger, fear and/or anxiety, usually no good answers come to mind and I remain stuck. Our move to the mindset of gratitude and gratefulness allows us to see the big picture, both the good and the bad, of that particular situation.
It also pushes us to take action, to make a decision and to move forward.
Now, I realize that some decisions will still not resolve a specific situation around money and finances, however, taking action, is one step in a direction that will help you move ahead toward your goals.
The practice of starting your day with a mindset of gratitude/gratefulness can shift your entire day.
How can we start our day, and even end our day, with the mindset of gratitude? Here are 3 tips to kick-start your habit and you will be surprised at how easy this becomes and how joyful and less stress you will feel as you tackle the challenges of your day. Whether you are dealing with Money Matters or Life Matters, I have found these simple tips to work well for me to take action and move forward.
Tip 1: When we wake up, do we open our eyes and say, “Thank you for another day?” Or do we grumble to ourselves that it’s too early; it’s too cold; the dog needs to be walked, or a hundred other complaints about our morning?
Try starting your day with a smile and an affirmation that you are here with your family, your pets, your friends, your health, or your work… Whatever gets you up in the morning filled with passion and purpose!
I can think of many things in my life that I am grateful for, starting with my health and my family.
If I wake up and my first thought is “negative” or a “complaint to self,” then I have screwed up my day and who knows what will happen. If you wake up and you cannot shake the negative thought, try to change your surroundings with a walk outside in nature or a quick exercise routine.
Tip 2: For many of us, we keep a journal close by to take note of the things that we are grateful for. I often use a journal. It’s an amazing mind shift when you write a note to say, “I am grateful for________!”
Tip 3: This tip will take a little practice. When faced with a situation or person that is negative, in your mind, switch or “re-frame” to a positive trait or thought. Example, if a colleague comes into your morning meeting grumpy and negative, take the positive view and reframe the conversation. Don’t let the person or the environment move you from a positive frame of mind. It works… with practice!!
Bonus Tip: Your smile, whether in person or on the phone, will make someone’s day, and it may be yours!